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Insurance Industry Whistleblower Wendell Potter Blasts Senate Panel Rejection of Public Insurance Option


US Politics & Gov't  (tags: healthcare, public option, SenateFinanceCommittee, Medicare, Baucus, Republicans, Obama, Faustian bargain, Big Pharma, Big Insurers, lobbyists, Wendell Potter, CenterforMedia'nDemocracy, NPR poll, Congress, MobilizationforHealthCare, sit-in, arrests )

LucyKalei
- 3576 days ago - democracynow.org
Potter: By no means final answer on this! Optimistic final bill will reach Pres's desk WITH public option. Connection to new poll results: public feels profoundly shut out of current overhaul debate - 71% say Congress not paying attention to us!



   

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LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Thursday October 1, 2009, 4:07 am
This Democracy Now! show covers some very important ground, including the findings of the new NPR-Kaiser Family Foundation-Harvard School of Public Health poll; coverage of a sit-in protest (at the New York offices of Aetna) by the group Mobilization for Health Care For All that ended in 17 arrests; and this part where Amy Goodman quotes Robert Reich, former secretary under Clinton, who wrote,:

“The White House made a Faustian bargain with Big Pharma and Big Insurance, essentially scuttling both of these profit-squeezing mechanisms in return for [these] industries’ agreement not to oppose healthcare legislation with platoons of lobbyists and millions of dollars [of] TV ads, and Pharma’s willingness to cut drug prices by some $80 billion over the next ten years.” He says, “The White House promised these industries they’d come out way ahead—getting tens of millions of new customers who’d be buying private health insurance policies and thereby paying [for] an almost endless supply of new drugs. Healthcare reform would be, in short, a bonanza.”

Is that why, for example, your companies, Wendell Potter, and the other insurance companies have not launched the kind of massive campaign that they did against the ’93 and ’94 Clinton healthcare reform?

WENDELL POTTER: That’s right. And they have worked very closely with the White House. Some of the executives I know have been to the White House multiple times from the insurance industry. So they’ve been cutting their own deals, undoubtedly, or making their own assurances to the White House.

But the thing that the White House must not be taking into consideration is that while they will say things publicly, that they’re working as good faith partners for the—with the President and with Congress, behind the scenes they’re doing all that they can to cut the heart out of legislation, including the public option, and to preserve what would benefit them. That’s the way they operate. That’s what’s going on here.
 

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Thursday October 1, 2009, 4:16 am

There are several video clips shown during this interview, so it's much better to watch it on site, rather than reading the tapescript, which I am providing anyway:


AMY GOODMAN: Efforts to create a government-run health insurance plan were dealt a setback Tuesday after the Senate Finance Committee rejected a pair of amendments to create a public option. Both amendments were defeated when a group of Democrats, including Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus, joined with Republicans to oppose the public option. Supporters of the public option say a government plan is needed to help keep private insurance plans honest.

Baucus voted against both amendments, as did Democrats Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Kent Conrad of North Dakota. Democratic Senators Bill Nelson of Florida and Tom Carper of Delaware voted against one of the public option amendments but supported the other.

During Tuesday’s debate, committee chair Max Baucus of Montana defended his vote.

SEN. MAX BAUCUS: As I’ve said before, I see a lot to like in a public option. There’s a lot here. I included, for example, a public option in the white paper that I released last year. And the public option would help to hold insurance companies’ feet to the fire. I don’t think there’s much doubt about that.

But my first job is to get this bill across the finish line. There’s a lot in this bill that will reform the insurance market. There’s a lot in this bill that will control costs. And there’s a lot in this bill that would expand coverage to millions of Americans. Those things have to be my priority, and thus I’ll have to vote no today on this amendment.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Max Baucus has been widely criticized for his close ties to the healthcare and insurance industry. The Montana Democrat has collected over $4 million from the healthcare industry throughout his career. His chief health adviser, Elizabeth Fowler, is a former executive for the insurance giant WellPoint. His previous chief health adviser, Michelle Easton, now lobbies for WellPoint.

To talk more about the Senate Finance Committee vote, we’re joined by Wendell Potter, former top executive at CIGNA, one of the nation’s largest for-profit health insurance companies. Up until last year, Wendell Potter served as head of corporate communications at CIGNA and as CIGNA’s chief corporate spokesperson. He also once headed communications at Humana, another large for-profit health insurer. Wendell Potter is now a fellow at the Center for Media and Democracy and has become one of the industry’s most prominent whistleblowers.

Wendell Potter, welcome again to Democracy Now! Your reaction to the Senate Finance Committee vote?

WENDELL POTTER: Well, thank you, Amy.

It was expected. I don’t think many people really expected that the Senate Finance Committee, led by Senator Max Baucus, would report out a bill that included the public option.

But I think the important thing to remember is that this is one of a number of committees that is working on this and reporting out bills and that, by no means, is the final answer on this. I’m very optimistic that the final bill that reaches the President’s desk will include a public option.

AMY GOODMAN: And what exactly do you think is going to accomplish this?

WENDELL POTTER: You know, I think it could happen in a number of different ways. The House legislation, I think, that is ultimately passed by the House will include a strong public option. And I know from talking to many members of Congress that there is very strong support in both the House and the Senate. And the bill that came out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which had been led by Senator Kennedy and now is being led by Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, has a very strong public option.

This is the only committee, the Senate Finance Committee, that has rejected it at this point, and it’s the most conservative of the committees. I hope that Senator Baucus will come to realize that he is one of sixty Democrats who can get this bill through Congress and get it through the Senate and that he understands that his responsibility should be to persuade those other members of his party in the Senate that they should vote for this and the reasons why he gave, himself, why it’s important.

AMY GOODMAN: A new poll has come out by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Harvard School of Public Health, that finds that, so far, the public feels profoundly shut out of the current overhaul debate. In fact, 71 percent told the Kaiser Family Foundation that Congress is paying too little attention to what people are saying. Relate that, people feeling shut out, with the Finance Committee vote against a public option.

WENDELL POTTER: You know, I think there’s a great correlation. I have been frustrated myself that there’s been very little attention, clearly, paid by Senator Baucus and other members of the committee to what the public really wants. There’s been a consistently strong support for the public option in every single poll that I’ve seen.

And you were mentioning earlier about the people on the senator’s staff who have either worked for previously, or currently, for WellPoint—speaks volumes, I think. I’ve been contacted by a lot of members of Congress, senators and members of the House, and I’ve had a chance to sit down and talk with them about some of the things that I know as a former insider, someone who’s worked twenty years in the industry. Not once have I heard from anyone on Senator Baucus’s team.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Wendell Potter. For twenty years he was an executive at CIGNA and Humana. Most importantly, in the years at CIGNA, he was their chief corporate spokesperson, but has left to blow the whistle on insurance companies. What about the role, Wendell Potter, of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners playing in the Baucus legislation?

WENDELL POTTER: Well, it’s an inappropriate role. I mean, the NAIC does good work. It comprises state insurance commissioners around the country, and it helps in setting rules. But it is proposing rules. State legislatures have to adopt the regulations that they follow. Giving them the inordinate authority that they have in the Baucus bill is just not appropriate. There needs to be much stronger state and federal regulation.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the role of these insurance companies in determining the legislation. You allude to the WellPoint execs working with Max Baucus, he himself getting millions of dollars from the health insurance industry. But exactly how it works? You were at CIGNA. What kind of control do these companies have over these men and women in Congress that they subsidize, that they bankroll?

WENDELL POTTER: You know, in many different ways. Through political action committees, part of my responsibilities—a person on my staff was responsible for administering the public—the political action committee, which doles out money that employees of companies contribute to be used by the company at its discretion to give to candidates and often to incumbents and candidates who have a history or promise to vote the way the company would want it to vote.

Through fundraisers, I, during my time in the industry, participated and paid for some of the members, actually, at luncheons, who are on the Senate Finance Committee, including some of the Democrats. That happens.

Relationships—hiring people who used to work for the senator as lobbyist or having people who have other close ties, including former members of the Congress, the Senate and the House, to do lobbying. It happens in many different ways.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to yesterday’s debate in the Senate Finance Committee. Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, who introduced one of the public option amendments, questioned Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa over his rejection of government-run health insurance option.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: I’d just like to know what you think of Medicare, a government-run program that’s far more government-run than what Senator Rockefeller has proposed? Do you think Medicare is a good program? Because most of the amendments on the other side have been aimed at preserving Medicare, a government-run program.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: I think that Medicare is part of the social fabric of America, after forty years, just like Social Security is. And I don’t say that because it’s perfect. There’s a lot of things that need to be changed, and a lot of the things in this legislation are changing a lot of things that’s wrong with Medicare. And to say that I support it is not to say that it’s the best system that it can be.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: But it is a government-run plan, isn’t that right?

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: It is a government-run plan.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: Thank you.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: And not—and the reason I say it’s part of the social fabric of America is there are private health insurance plans and retirement plans that are connected with Medicare and Social Security, and it’s not easy to undo a Medicare plan without also hurting a lot of private initiatives that are coupled with it. But that does not make it perfect. And I’ll bet, based upon fifty years of experience, if we had to do it over again, we’d do it other ways, even if it were a government-run plan.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Chuck Grassley. Wendell Potter, your response?

WENDELL POTTER: Well, clearly, this senator has the insurance industry’s best interests at heart, not the American public and not his constituents. The Medicare program is, as he said, part of the social fabric of this country and has been for many years. And it is a government-run plan that has meant a great deal of difference to a lot of people in this country, including certainly his constituents.

He has said that he didn’t think a public plan would be fair, compete fairly with insurance companies who—the private insurance industry. I’d like to ask him what is fair about the way that the insurance industries operate today, the companies that dump sick people when they need insurance most. What is fair about the way the insurance industry operates, Senator Grassley?

AMY GOODMAN: Forty-five million new customers, that’s what the private insurance companies can now look forward to, if a bill like what came out of the Senate Finance Committee moves forward with the mandate. Explain how they will make out and how important, how significant, how profitable this is for the for-profit companies.

WENDELL POTTER: Yeah, this is the first time that the insurance industry has really seen great opportunity in healthcare reform, with an individual mandate, which would require all of us to buy insurance if we are not eligible for a public, government-run program, which, fortunately, many people are. We would have to buy it in the private market from insurance companies, many of whom—many of which are for-profit companies. We would not have the option of buying or getting insurance through a government-run program like the public option would create.

So, not only would our premium dollars go into this—into the private insurance industry, but a lot of tax dollars would. Most people who don’t have insurance can’t afford it, and they wouldn’t be able to afford it after healthcare reform is passed without the government subsidizing their premiums. So billions and billions of taxpayers’ dollars will flow right into the treasuries of these big for-profit insurance companies. So we will be essentially paying a tax that will help support these insurance companies. It will be an enormous bailout of the health insurance industry.

AMY GOODMAN: Robert Reich, former secretary under Clinton, wrote, “The White House made a Faustian bargain with Big Pharma and Big Insurance, essentially scuttling both of these profit-squeezing mechanisms in return for [these] industries’ agreement not to oppose healthcare legislation with platoons of lobbyists and millions of dollars [of] TV ads, and Pharma’s willingness to cut drug prices by some $80 billion over the next ten years.” He says, “The White House promised these industries they’d come out way ahead—getting tens of millions of new customers who’d be buying private health insurance policies and thereby paying [for] an almost endless supply of new drugs. Healthcare reform would be, in short, a bonanza.”

Is that why, for example, your companies, Wendell Potter, and the other insurance companies have not launched the kind of massive campaign that they did against the ’93 and ’94 Clinton healthcare reform?

WENDELL POTTER: That’s right. And they have worked very closely with the White House. Some of the executives I know have been to the White House multiple times from the insurance industry. So they’ve been cutting their own deals, undoubtedly, or making their own assurances to the White House.

But the thing that the White House must not be taking into consideration is that while they will say things publicly, that they’re working as good faith partners for the—with the President and with Congress, behind the scenes they’re doing all that they can to cut the heart out of legislation, including the public option, and to preserve what would benefit them. That’s the way they operate. That’s what’s going on here.

AMY GOODMAN: The importance of protest, Wendell Potter? You, as a former spokesperson for CIGNA, you working for the insurance companies—how they feel about folks who go out in the streets, like yesterday here in New York, seventeen people arrested at the New York offices of Aetna, the activists linking arms, chanting “people not profits, Medicare for all”? It’s the group Mobilization for Health Care. Let me play one of the clips from this protest. It’s Mark Milano, who spoke out after the seventeen arrests.

MARK MILANO: We’re just here because of the many people we know who die because insurance companies put profits before people’s care. The myths about government death panels are a lie. The reality is that the deaths panels are the people who are paid every day to deny care to people. That’s their job. The more people they deny care to, the bigger bonuses they get. We are here to say that we will not rest until every person who needs care in America gets it, and the way to get that care for everyone is Medicare for all.

AMY GOODMAN: Medicare for all, Wendell Potter. Finally, lay out the course you see, after the Senate Finance Committee has just said no to a public option, of a public option, or perhaps—and I’d like your view on this—how you feel about single payer, Medicare for all?

WENDELL POTTER: I think next steps. It is necessary to get a bill out of the Senate Finance Committee, so that the Senate can ultimately vote on a bill. So will the House. And eventually there will be a bill that will go to a conference committee made up of Senate and House members, and they will come up with a bill that I hope will contain a public option, that will be approved by both the House and the Senate and on its way to the President, that will be a strong public option.

With regards to single payer, I think the President made a big blunder. I think he should have said, when he was inaugurated or soon—as soon as this debate began, that—you know, let’s look at what would be the best solution for this country. And why not consider a single-payer system? Let’s have that debate in Congress. It may not wind up that that is what this Congress enacts, but that debate should have happened. It will happen ultimately. And I think these protests are an important thing in our country. I think it will eventually take a social movement to get the kind of healthcare that we need in this country—healthcare reform.

AMY GOODMAN: Wendell Potter, thank you very much for being with us, former executive at CIGNA and Humana corporations. He was the chief corporate spokesperson for CIGNA. Now he’s a senior fellow on healthcare for the Center for Media and Democracy, joining us from Philadelphia. Thanks so much.
 

Carole Sarcinello (338)
Thursday October 1, 2009, 4:18 am

Thanks, Jill!
 

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Thursday October 1, 2009, 5:28 am
Hi,

I just signed a petition to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to stop protecting corporate Democrats who are willing to filibuster a public health insurance option.

Can you please add your name?
 

Marion Y (322)
Thursday October 1, 2009, 11:08 am
"And they have worked very closely with the White House. Some of the executives I know have been to the White House multiple times from the insurance industry. So they’ve been cutting their own deals, undoubtedly, or making their own assurances to the White House."

Groups meet with the WH all the time. When people meet, it doesn't mean endorsement of their ideas or requests. It simply means they are talking. Is there proof of deals cut with the WH?

Other than that, Wendell Potter is right on target.

Thanks Jill.
 

Yvonne White (229)
Thursday October 1, 2009, 4:45 pm
The Baucus bill was bull$hit from the get-go.. But Obama does need to put his foot down, the sooner the better...

Hardly a Fatal Blow: Everything You Read About Now Is Foreplay
We knew that the Senate Finance Committee would reject the public sector option. Now they have done just that.

This is not news. Nor is this a “fatal blow” for progressives.

Will the public option survive a vote on the Senate floor? Probably not—though it could happen. But this still does not mean that the public option is dead.

We know that the bill that emerges from the House will contain a MedicareE (for Everyone) alternative. The House bill and the Senate bill will then go to conference. This is the moment that matters. As a respected HealthBeat reader who knows Washington well recently told me, “Everything else is foreplay.” Much of what we are reading now is posturing--by some politicians ( Charles Schumer deserves an Emmy), by some pundits and by unnamed sources who want reporters to think that they know more than they actually know.
I would be happier if I thought both the Senate and the House bill would include a public option. But that isn’t necessary. All that is necessary is to get a bill through the House, and a bill through the Senate, with or without MedicareE. In Conference, where the two bills are merged, they can put the public option back in.

As former Congressional staffer and HealthBeat reader Jim Jaffe points out: “Remember that the Clinton bill never came to a vote in either House, so there was no chance to duke out differences in conference. Here it appears probable that each bill will pass a bill, however imperfect they may appear. I'd call that progress.” Keep in mind: once the bill goes to conference committee they won't need 60 votes in the Senate. It will be purely an up/down vote.

But isn’t Senate Finance the stronger committee? In conference won’t the Senate trump the House? Traditionally, Senate Finance has wielded great power. But in the past, it was chaired by legendary power brokers: Russell Long. Bob Dole. Lloyd Bentsen.

Max Baucus is no Lloyd Bentsen. He set out to put together a “bi-partisan bill,” and he has failed dismally. To be fair, from the beginning this was a hopeless task: the conservatives do not want reform of any kind. But Baucus should have known that.

The conservatives prefer the status quo. Many are willing to give every native-born American a piece of paper titled “insurance”—but, as I noted here, they would leave it to the insurance industry to decide what that piece of paper is worth. Its value would depend on what the customer is able and willing to pay. If the customer can’t pay roughly $13,500 (in today’s dollars) for a family plan, earns too much to qualify for a government subsidy (for example, a couple earning over $58,820) and doesn’t have an employer willing to pick up roughly 75% of the premium, he and his family will probably wind up with a high-deductible plan that they can’t afford to use. They may be able to get primary care without meeting the deductible—if they can find a primary care doctor. Bottom line: “Reform” would mean that we continue to ration care according to ability to pay.

Low-income households would be covered by subsides, but many on the third and fourth steps of a five-step income ladder would find themselves spending 12% of their income for such “coverage” as the private insurance industry decides to give them. For a family of three with joint income of $80,000, that means they could wind up paying $9,600 in premiums, plus up to $10,000 a year, out of pocket, in co-pays and deductibles.

President Obama and White House budget director Peter Orszag understand that if health insurance isn’t affordable, reform becomes a sham. The political penalty for promising what you can’t deliver would be steep. Thus they understand that for health care reform to work they must do what Massachusetts didn’t do: reduce the cost of care before rolling out full coverage.

The Commonwealth Fund estimates that administrative savings alone would make a public-sector family plan $2000 less expensive than a private-sector plan. And that’s just the beginning. Reform could save billions if some of the Medicare reforms currently under consideration are put in place over the next three years--and then incorporated in the public plan. By paying doctors and hospitals more if they collaborate to provide the effective, efficient, patient-centered care that we see at medical centers like Geisinger and Mayo —while refusing to pay for unnecessary tests, preventable readmissions, and over-priced products and services that expose patients to risk without benefit—reformers could drive premiums lower. In order to compete, many private insurers would almost certainly follow suit.

Many in the administration know what needs to be done. Medicare just needs to be begin implementing the structural changes that the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) has been recommending for years—reforms that did not interest President Bush because he was engrossed in a pet project: turning Medicare over to the for-profit industry.

What will happen in Conference? Today the Wall Street Journal said it all in one sentence: “The idea could still revive if the White House weighs in strongly on its behalf.” As I have said in the past everything depends on what President Obama, Peter Orszag and Rahm Emanuel decide to do. Forget what Schumer or Snowe or even Rockefeller say today. The deal will be consummated, not on the Senate floor but in conference. Is the White House divided on this issue? Perhaps. But it is hard to see how the administration is going to deliver health care for all unless, in the end, the President insists on a public plan that, together with Medicare, will have the clout to begin eliminating the waste in our health care system.

Posted by Maggie Mahar on September 30, 2009 | Email this post

http://www.healthbeatblog.com/
 

Carole Sarcinello (338)
Thursday October 1, 2009, 5:02 pm

The Baucus bill is SO outrageous that I'm starting to think it was PURPOSELY so -- just to have it thrown out, and, as many people hear about the "crazy bill" (but don't know which one -- HR 3200, HR 676, etc.) it just casts aspersions on ALL of them.

Please, people, when posting about healthcare bills, be sure to mention the HR number. ( I'd really hate for 676 to be confused with 3200.)
 

Marion Y (322)
Thursday October 1, 2009, 8:43 pm
It does seem like it was purposely written for failure. I heard that dastardly clause to jail anyone for not buying health care was Max Baucus' idea. Is he insane? If something like this bill were to pass (I have no idea which one, Carole), the people will be out for the kill.
 

. (1)
Saturday October 3, 2009, 7:10 am
What happened to the fact there would be no BIG LOBBYISTS like Big Pharma and the Big Health Insurance Industry able to lobby for their own crap? What happened to the fact that these huge for profit industries were not supposed to be able to BUY their way into more profit? Why the hell does insurance corps. like Cigna, Humana and the rest continue to line their pockets are our expense? I was under the impression lobbyists were supposed to go by the way side, and not be able to buy out members of the House or Senate? When it boils down to one thing it is about MONEY, GREED, AND MORE MONEY AND MORE GREED! Those sitting in their glass houses, making money off of dying people do not give a damned about any of us... it makes me sick to even think about it... if we don't stand up against them... we will never get the health reform we need... it is up to us as the people to say we have had a gut full and won't take NO for an answer! We want complete health care reform, including some type of public option. For far too many years our government has been ran by greed, corruption, lobbyists, pork belly spending, and all out for the all mighty dollar... it is going to take moving a mountain twice to get that kind of corruption out of the halls of Congress.
 

Bill L. (1)
Saturday October 3, 2009, 2:39 pm
Almost 100 yrs later the words of will rogers ring as true as wen he spoke them:" We are fourtunate tolive in hte USA the richest country inn the world,Because we can afford the best Congress Money Can Buy"
 

Carole Sarcinello (338)
Saturday October 3, 2009, 2:41 pm

Bravissimo!
 

(0)
Saturday October 3, 2009, 3:45 pm
All I can say is that a public option is not only due to Americans, it is still looming, if only Americans will truly voice their opinions.

Believe me we already have a public option funded by American taxpayers now...it's called congressional insurance and is an all expense paid healthcare to each and every senator and congressman; even the ones that voted down a public option for all Americans are still enjoying theirs.
 

Carole Sarcinello (338)
Saturday October 3, 2009, 3:53 pm
 
Federal Employees Health Benefits Program

As soon as members of Congress are sworn in, they may participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). The program offers an assortment of health plans from which to choose, including fee-for-service, point-of-service, and health maintenance organizations (HMOs). In addition, Congress members can also insure their spouses and their dependents.

Not only does Congress get to choose from a wide range of plans, but there’s no waiting period. Unlike many Americans who must struggle against precondition clauses or are even denied coverage because of those preconditions, Senators and Representatives are covered no matter what - effective immediately.

And here’s the best part. The government pays up to 75 percent of the premium. That government, of course, is funded by taxpayers, the same taxpayers who often cannot afford health care themselves.

Read more: http://public-healthcare-issues.suite101.com/article.cfm/health_care_for_the_us_congress#ixzz0SurT6rMY
 
 

. (0)
Sunday October 4, 2009, 3:02 am
Some more Potter magic... lets hope he uses that wooden spoon well and beats their butts in shape
 

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Monday October 5, 2009, 4:30 am
You cannot currently send a star to Just because you have done so within the last week: thanks a million
for that comment cum links on the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

How can those Senators & Reps deny Americans this very basic, fundamental human right, which every human being needs, & that they themselves enjoy --- and NOT lose sleep over it?

They all deserve a firing squad for failing in their duty -- or at the very least to lose their seats for EVER!

It is so immoral, just simply monstrous!

And that Will Rogers quote is GREAT.


I have a new hero as of today:

Rep Grayson speaking on the House floor is on YouTube, first delivering his presentation of the Republican health care plan with nifty high-impact visuals; and,

then, responding to the Republican demand that he apologize .

Is there a petition thanking, I mean applauding, this man ?

I sent him my praise & thanks via e-mail at grayson.house.gov, I think it was.
 

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Monday October 5, 2009, 4:40 am
Dear MoveOn member,

I'm at the end of my rope. What CIGNA is doing to me is—well, it's outrageous.

I have a brain tumor. Doctors are ready to help me. But CIGNA has been blocking me from getting testing and treatment for two years, while almost doubling my premiums.


Then, this week was the kicker. CIGNA's pharmacy called to say that the co-pay on the medicine that helps control my debilitating head pain is skyrocketing from $10 to $1,115. That's not a typo. They're making me pay one hundred times what I'm paying now, in addition to my $753/month premium.

I can't afford that. So when the pain comes, I won't have any defense. I'll spend hours in the fetal position, out of my mind with pain.

When my story went public a couple of weeks ago—with the help of over 100,000 MoveOn members—CIGNA said they would pay for a test I'd been asking for at Cleveland Clinic. It was a step in the right direction. But after two years of denials, and with a long course of treatment ahead of me, I knew better than to just take them at their word.

So I asked questions. But they wouldn't offer any explanation for why they denied my coverage for so long, or any assurance that they had changed their procedures so I wouldn't face the same unjust denials again. And I began to wonder if they were more interested in just sweeping my story under the rug than actually helping me.

When I got this latest news from CIGNA's pharmacy on Tuesday, I kept asking myself, is this a mistake? Or is this happening because I went public with my case? Are other CIGNA customers receiving the same phone calls?

I used to give CIGNA the benefit of the doubt, but after years of unexplained denials, I've had enough. So I'm asking for your help again. For myself, and for everyone else who is suffering, I am asking CIGNA for answers.

And I think it would help if thousands of people like you were to join me in demanding them. I'm writing them a short letter with a simple question: Why? Can you add your name to my letter?


Sign Dawn's Letter
http://pol.moveon.org/dawn/index.html

Dr. Kang:

As you probably know, your company has denied me needed care for two years while I suffer from a debilitating but treatable brain tumor. I pay my $753.47 premiums. I follow the proper procedures. But CIGNA refuses to give me the care I need.

Instead, you keep increasing my prices. First my premiums rose by hundreds of dollars, and now my prescription costs are going up by more than 10,000%.

What makes you think you can treat sick people this way? When will you stop doing this to me and the thousands of people like me who are suffering? And if you solve this latest problem, how do I know you won't do this to me again next week--that you're actually changing your ways and not just trying to make your PR problem disappear?

Please answer these questions. I need to know, for the sake of my health and my life. Many others have signed this letter too, to support me and make sure I get answers.

Respectfully,
Dawn Smith

Your name will be added to Dawn's letter to Dr. Jeffrey Kang, Chief Medical Officer of CIGNA.
 

Marion Y (322)
Monday October 5, 2009, 7:12 am
Thank you, Alba! Outrageous. I have signed this petition.
 

Marion Y (322)
Monday October 5, 2009, 7:25 am
Alba ~ We can send Rep. Grayson a thank you letter via this link.
 

Laura B (2)
Monday October 5, 2009, 7:55 pm
Wendell Potter is a hero for corroborating what many of us already know, that the insurance lobby is full of souless pigs. Wendell has truly redeemed himself by crossing to "the other side." He has taken his rightful place on the side of "The common good."
 
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